Having trouble booking your shot? These volunteer 'vaccine hunters' want to help
Vaccine Hunters Canada uses social media to help Canadians learn when and where they're eligible for the jab
A group of web-savvy volunteers says they have helped thousands of Canadians book vaccine appointments so far, and they're just getting started.
Vaccine Hunters Canada uses social media to help Canadians navigate the sometimes confusing patchwork of vaccine eligibility and availability.
"A lot of people find the comprehensiveness of the vaccine rollout actually an overload of information," Toronto's Sabrina Craig, one of the group's co-founders, told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"Some people find it difficult to navigate, particularly … if English isn't your [first] language. Or if you have a grasp of the English language, maybe you're not super familiar with navigating the internet. So that's where we come in."
WATCH | HowVaccine Hunters Canada helps people:
The group was founded by four volunteers but rapidly expanded over the last month to incorporate people from across the country. It already has more than 108,000 followers on Twitter, plus thousands more on Facebook and Discord.
The volunteers follow the latest vaccine information from health units and post updates and links whenever vaccines become available. They also connect with individuals to help them figure out when and where they're eligible for a jab.
Craig says it feels good to help — especially in the cases of people who face language and technology barriers.
"I believe it was last Thursday … I posted a fairly catchy Ottawa, Ont., availability. And later on, the team received a notification that someone was able to book their English second-language speaking father, who is also an essential worker, to that Ottawa place," she said. "It feels really good."
Calgary's Andrea Currie is among the Canadians who booked their shots thanks to Vaccine Hunters Canada. She told CBC's The National that she was struggling to find a spot until she saw a tweet from the organization that pointed her in the right direction.
"I just say a heartfelt thank you," she said. "I think we all owe you a debt of gratitude."
Co-founder Joshua Kalpin said the lowering of the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine in Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba has kept the group busy.
"It's just non-stop," he told CBC Ottawa. "Our messages are exploding with pharmacy tips. We're having trouble keeping up with them, to be honest."
But that won't stop them. Craig says the group is now starting to partner with pharmacies and local governments, including the City of Toronto, to disseminate information.
"We're here and we see ourselves as helpers for the public and we really stand to support Canadians from Maritimes to B.C., north, south, everywhere, to empower Canadians to … see their eligibility and get them and their loved ones signed up," she said.
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from Kayla Hounsell and Matthew Kupfer. Interview with Sabrina Craig produced by Jeanne Armstrong.